Book Review: City of Ghosts

reivew-cover-city of ghostsTitle: City of Ghosts [GhostWriters 1]

Author: J.H. Moncrieff

Genre: Contemporary, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery

Rating: 5 Stars

AmazonButtonGoodreadsButton

Description/Synopsis:

On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.

Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.

Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.

As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but wow, did I. City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff succeeded at not only being a creepy ghost story, but a fascinating assay into another culture, and an action-packed adventure all in one. I’m a huge horror fan, but books don’t usually creep me out—and this one did. I was up till 2 am reading, and I couldn’t stop myself from checking out the dark corners of my house—just to be sure. My attempts to pronounce Yuehai out loud to myself during my read-through made me feel as if I were conjuring her ghost into my house.

This story was well written. I didn’t run into any obvious typos, grammatical errors, or formatting mistakes. The narrative voice was both detailed and easy-to-follow without being overbearing or poetic. The characters were interesting and although not terribly complex, I couldn’t help but like them—even the ones I grew to hate. (I’m looking at you, Meghan & Harold).

Overall—this was just a fantastic book. I read through it in a matter of hours, and I almost hated to stop and sleep (but I was only halfway in at that point, so I figured I better!) It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a ghost story that I’ve liked as much as I did this one. There were elements of the Chinese culture, a ghost story, action/adventure, human rights, and even a tad bit of a romance within its pages. If you’re looking for a good all around read, I’d highly recommend picking up this book. I’m excited to read on into the rest of the series!

Advertisements

Book Review: Silver City Seduction

review-cover-silver city seductionTitle: Silver City Seduction

Author: Laura Fletcher

Genre: Novella, Historical, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

AmazonButtonGoodreadsButton

Description/Synopsis:

Victoria Nolan is on the run. She hightails it out of town on the next stagecoach, changes her name and settles into Lettie’s Boarding House temporarily. Once that task has ended she needs to find a new job or leave; but she has come to appreciate Silver City.

Samuel Flynn needs a new cook for his ranch and the lovely Tori fits the role. She is not only a good cook and hard worker, but she is so appreciative of life. He is drawn to her naive ways and finds himself seeking her out more often than he should.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Silver City Seduction was a sweet, short novella by Laura Fletcher, but it was not without its problems. The book, for the most part, was well written. I only ran into one typo that made me pause. The writing was easy to follow, clean, and reasonably paced. As with most novellas, there were some time skips, but the story didn’t feel too rushed, except maybe the romance, but we’ll get to that.

I liked the story. It was sweet and interesting. What it wasn’t, was a mail order bride romance. There was no mail order bride. None. Victoria was never sent away for. She never received any sort of advertisement or letter imploring that she arrive on Samuel’s ranch. She found the job through a friend—and ladies and gentlemen, that is not what a mail order bride romance is about.

That aside, the characters were a bit flimsy. Samuel was, well, a little creepy. he was constantly staring darkly at Victoria, but then hardly ever talked to her. The three troublesome ranch hands, other than being slobs, didn’t really present themselves as troublesome (which supposedly was why they’d run off so many housekeepers before Victoria)—certainly not enough for the exasperating way her predecessor quit. Rae barely made an appearance in the book. Lester was the typical black-hat villain with psychopathic tendencies that are overly done and frankly, uninteresting in their lack of complexity. In fact, the only character with even a little depth was Victoria herself, and she was, for the most part, just a naïve, simpering girl with a penchant for making cookies.

I gave this book three stars because even though it was a fun little afternoon read, it wasn’t well developed. The plot barely existed and upon further investigation, would have fallen apart. The characters were 1-dimensional and weak. The romance sped along with the barest of mentions until suddenly they realized they loved each other out of nowhere. It just felt like there wasn’t enough time or enough effort put into this story. Will it entertain you for an hour while you’re in a waiting room somewhere? Sure. I’d recommend it if you’re just looking for a short, sweet read, but it isn’t going to be something you can truly sink into to while away a few hours.

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

 

cover-cityoffallenangels

Title: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult, Romance, Action & Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

buy4._V192207739_

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

Description/Synopsis:

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Meh. That’s how I feel about this book. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t god-awful. Technically speaking, the writing was clean and grammatically correct. However, the plot this time around left something to be desired. Unlike the previous book (and this may be part of the problem), City of Fallen Angels wasn’t crammed full of tension and action. The first half of the book was a little more like the calm before a storm. Everyone seemed happy. Clary and Jace were downright silly around each other. It was a nice change of pace, but I’ll admit that I did miss the tension.

The book stalled out a bit in the middle half of the book. A lot of new elements were introduced with new characters, new backstory, and an exceedingly weak drawn-out plot. It almost felt as if every character introduced had some sort of secret they were hiding, and it made it very difficult to pin down anyone’s intensions. I get the need to be secretive—really I do—but when there’s so many secrets in such a slow part of the book… I ended up just getting frustrated.

A lot of time was spent around some of the not-so-important characters, including Simon (whom I hate), his family, his girlfriend problems… Maia, Jordan, and their relationship problems and backstory… and Jocelyn and Luke’s upcoming wedding. Other lesser characters like Alec, Magnus, Raphael, the Seelie Queen, and the newly introduced Camille, took up most of the narrative—leaving Clary and Jace (the main interest in this series!) by the wayside.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, every time the story switched to Clary and Jace they were either whining over each other, ignoring each other all together, or getting their make-out sessions interrupted. Talk about fan-girl frustration!

After the first 2/3rds of the book things became a little more tense—dark even, and it was a good change from the previous boring interludes of not-knowing-what-the-heck-was-going-on, but the whole thing left me with an increasing sense of unease. Everything was too perfect… then mysterious, then downright creepy.

In the end I found I just couldn’t enjoy the story as much as I did with the previous books. Not a lot seemed to happen with most of the time in the book being spent dealing with relationship issues. It didn’t seem to go anywhere, and even in the end, the drama was pointless. The one shining redeemer was the tragic ending (that I won’t spoil) which hopefully will lead into the next book and a much more interesting plotline.

Would I recommend this to anyone? Not if you haven’t read the previous books. It doesn’t stand on it’s own, and it certainly wasn’t the best of the series. If you’ve read the previous three, then I’d recommending at least sifting through this one in the hopes you’ll be caught up for the next in the series. This book was so-so. Readable, but lukewarm.

Book Review: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

cover-cityofglass

Title: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, YA, Teen, Action & Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

buy4._V192207739_

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

Description/Synopsis:

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved this book. I may be giving it more credit than I should because I fan-girled over certain aspects of the plot, but I’ll hold by my 5 star rating. Let’s face it, this series has it’s issues. Clary is notorious for making bad, childish, and impulsive decisions. Jace whines about –everything- and pouts in the corner over Clary every chance he gets. Don’t even get me started on Simon. I swear I hate him. Despite all that, however, the series, this book even, is great.

With each book as I get farther and farther into the series, it seems that the world building is only getting richer, and the characters, are getting, if not smarter, at least more adaptable. There are some great kick-ass scenes in this book that are going to make you squeal if you’re as much of a fan of this series as I am (but I’ll be nice and not tell you what they are).

Unfortunately it wasn’t all rainbows and puppies, and there were definitely some drawbacks this time around. There was a lot going on in this book – in fact, it seemed to have more action and tension than the previous two books combined. There’s a lot going in the world of the mortal instruments. Unfortunately, that means that not all of the characters introduced are going to get a significant amount of face time.

Alina was one of those characters. To be honest, When I read the book, and even later when I went back over it for notes and context I’d written myself as reminders… I didn’t remember Alina all that well. I’m still not sure if there was any significance at all to her being in the story. Quite frankly, if the author had left her out entirely, I don’t feel the story would have changed that much. She had a piss-poor attitude, and really didn’t seem to be around for any reason other than to piss off Clary.

The same can be said for several of the other minor characters, and really it’s a shame… BUT on the flip-side of that coin, I think there’s a good reason why those characters got so little face time. This book was jam-packed with backstory and histories of the various characters. I felt like I got a significant amount of information out of this book (as opposed to the previous two), and while at times that did make things a little dry, I was glad to have the information so I could start sorting out the events of the previous books in my head. So let’s take a moment to talk about some of the characters:

Spoilers: I am sad to report that in this installment of the story, Max dies. He was a cute character, and it’s always awful when a child dies in a story—but I’m glad the author chose to make the decision. Though he was adorable, Max wasn’t an important character. I think by killing off Max, the author made a real point about the war at hand in this book and the tragedy of what happened that day.

I will admit, despite my ongoing hatred for the character of Simon (I swear, he annoys the crap out of me with his passive-aggressive puppy love issues with Clary), I did like him a bit more in this book, particularly towards the end. It was nice to see him stand up as a character and start to really become an individual rather than a side character that was around to play off Clary and Jace. I still hate him though, and his angst-y attitude. Let’s be clear.

I also didn’t like the new Inquisitor…but there’s no surprise there. If anything, this one was almost (I said almost) worse than the previous one. I don’t know what it is with the Clave, but I can feel Clary’s frustration with them. There doesn’t seem to be many members who are even decent human beings. It seems to consist entirely of lemmings and Harry Potter villains.

Clary and Jace this time around both frustrated me and made me squeal with joy. I adore their relationship, even if it is taboo, but there comes a point where even the fan-girling isn’t enough. Jace through this book was even more whiny that usual. He was angry and outright mean through most of it – though I can understand why. Clary spent most of the story being selfish and acting childish (as per her usual character), running into danger without a thought to anyone or anything other than her whim of the moment. It was frustrating, but I can also understand where the two characters were coming from. There was so much tension and frustration between the couple from the outset of this book and through the previous two books that they just weren’t thinking clearly anymore. In the same situation I’m afraid to admit that I probably wouldn’t be much more mature than they were.

As for the dark and seriously creepy Sebastian… he was a character I loved to hate. He was charming, but in a way that seriously creeped me out from the very beginning of his appearance in the story. Seeing where his story ended up… I’m not surprised. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that Sebastian’s character came across with such an amazingly dark vibe. You could practically smell the evil on him, and it gave me the shivers.

Overall? I really liked this book – maybe even more than the first two books of the series (though it still isn’t my favorite. We’ll get to those.) I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and certainly to anyone who even remotely liked the movie or either of the previous books. This series seems to get better and better as it goes a long, and it feels like the world of the mortal instruments is becoming more filled out and intricate as the series goes on. This is going on my keeper shelf.

Book Review: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

cover-cityofashes

Title: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA/Teen, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Action & Adventure, Urban

Rating: 5 Stars

buy4._V192207739_

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

Description/Synopsis:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, possibly even more so than the first book – though it wasn’t my favorite in the series. Like the first book, it had it’s ups and downs and characters I really didn’t care for. I still hate Simon with a passion, and sometimes Clary makes really stupid mistakes… but the writing itself was excellent. Ms. Clare has a very easy-to-follow style of writing; both clear, and well-paced that makes reading this book and the others in the series, enjoyable. I never felt I was being pushed or dragged along as with some books, and there weren’t an abundance of technical issues with grammar, formatting, or word choice that made me want to pull my hair out.

My biggest frustrations came down to Simon and Clary’s relationship. I don’t like Simon. I can’t really put my finger on why I don’t like him… he didn’t particularly bother me in the movie series (okay maybe he did a little) but there’s something about him in the book series that really irks me. Maybe it’s because I’m routing so deeply for Clary and Jace that Simon’s presence grinds a nerve… or maybe it’s the almost pushy-quality there is to his character when he’s with Clary. Look, I understand that he’s been in love with Clary for like… forever, but it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Clary really isn’t that interested in him. You’d think he’d have some self respect and step away from that situation.

On the flip side, I’m equally annoyed with Clary in this particular case. The fact that she was willingly dating Simon (and even making out with him) gave me the heebie jeebies. There’s a certain ick factor that comes a long with their relationship that finally made me realize what a genius the author was. Let me explain: I don’t have that ick factor when it comes to Clary and Jace, who are supposed to be siblings at this point in the series. Something that should be totally taboo and bring about feelings of ickyness instead has me cheering on their forbidden relationship. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that I am so thoroughly engrossed in their love that I’m completely willing to ignore the fact that.. let’s face it… it’s gross. Instead, I get the feeling I should have about Clary’s relationship with Jace, with Clary and Simon instead. It feels like they’re siblings, and so it bothers me greatly when they’re together. I think it’s fantastic that the author was able to switch the roles of the relationships like that so clearly as to completely change how I see them.

Another character I absolutely hated (even more than Simon, and that’s saying something) was the Inquisitor from the Clave. She had a very distinct personality that reminded me a lot of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. I could swear they were sisters. Imogen has that sense of trying to do what she perceives as correct and lawful by her understanding of her job, but takes it that extra step too far and breaks the moral code that the rest of us live by. Much like Umbridge tortures Harry by making him carve sentences into the back of his hand, Imogen tortures and wrongfully imprisons Jace. She’s a character you love to hate, and it was almost tragic the way the story closed out on her character (I’ll leave the spoilers out this time).

I think one of my biggest sticking points in this whole story was Maryse. I spent 99% of the book trying to figure out how to pronounce her name (despite the fact that at one point Clary very clearly pronounced it as “May-ris” to Simon. There’s something about the spelling that made it impossible for my brain to fathom. I really wish the author had named her ANYTHING different. Instead, I spent the entirety of the story waffling between Mary-suh and a strange pronunciation of Maurice. I just can’t handle the name.

That aside, there were some really great moments in this book. It was nice to watch Jace struggle with his personal and familial identity throughout the book, as well as Clary’s discovery of her true power. She really came into her own in this novel, and she had some really kick-ass moments as I sunk further into the book. There were some great scenes in the later half of the book involving the Silent Brothers, Valentine, and Clary (not all at once)—and it was nice to see a little more of the Fey. Let me tell you – they both fascinate and creep me out at the same time. The Queen of the Seelie freaks me out.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book. I’d happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and I certainly think anyone who even remotely enjoyed the movie or the first book should certainly check it out. The series only gets better as it goes on. This is definitely going on my Keeper Shelf.

Book Review: City of Bones

 

cover-CityofBones

Title: City of Bones [The Mortal Instruments 1]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy, Action & Adventure

Rating: 5 (4.5)

buy4._V192207739_

goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47

Description/Synopsis: When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder commited by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons–and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First of all, great cover. Second, it was about time I got into this series. I avoided all the hype when the books first came out and started to become popular, but when the movie came out, I felt it was finally time I look into what the hype was all about. The first thing I did was watch the movie, which was pretty good – if a little all-over-the-place at times. Having enjoyed it, I jumped right into the first book, and without delay, subsequently finished all five.

Honestly, overall, and I’ll probably repeat this when I review the other four—I enjoyed the novel series a lot more than the movie. It, (like most book series), felt more complete and put-together. The plot made more sense, and there were a lot of little moments (like Simon being turned into a Rat) that didn’t make the cut into the movie, but seemed to suit the books just fine.

Like most YA novels, it had it’s moments of unnecessary drama (that’s just how teenagers are), but overall the writing was clear, concise, and fast-paced. I never found myself shaking my head at the narrative or skimming bits. I didn’t feel the need to throw things at the characters (okay, maybe at Simon), and although Clary sometimes did really stupid, dangerous things, I didn’t get annoyed at her character like I do with some YA heroine’s.

I think overall, if you liked the movie even remotely, you should give this book (and the entire series) a chance. The characters were a lot more personable in the book vs. the movie, and their motives, a little easier to understand. Jace especially was easier to connect to in this version of the story, though I think Clary possibly lost a bit of her coolness-factor. Simon still irritates me, but no surprise there. Anyways, it was a good book and I’d recommend it to any YA (or even adult) reader. The entire series is age appropriate for anyone 13+. A little later in the series (towards the last two books) there are some racier bits if you’re considering gifting this series to your teen, but the author was very careful not to go into great detail of any sexual/romantic encounter even that late in the series, and I’d certainly feel comfortable recommending it to anyone 13+ who enjoys paranormal fantasy. The world-building was a nice mix of fantasy/paranormal that leaned a bit towards the grittier side, with conniving not-so-nice fairies, vampires, werewolves, demons, and avenging angels.

The –only- reason this book got a 4.5 rating from me rather than a full 5 stars, was because a little later in the series (the last two books in particular) the story gets even better. This wasn’t my favorite book in the series, but it was still a good read. Take a chance, pick up a copy today. This one’s going on my keeper shelf.